November 20, 2011

The First Comic Book Artist? by Mark Heike

The Funnies one-shot coverIf you’re one of those people to whom “firsts” are important, who might YOU guess would be considered THE FIRST American comic book artist? I’ve never seen a discussion of this topic anywhere, but if anyone would like to start one, I have a surprising name I’d like to nominate-one Victor E. Pazmino. As popular wisdom states, one of the first “official” true publications to be considered a “comic book” was Dell Publications The Funnies, a self-cover, original-material tabloid sized 16-page “comic book” printed  “every Saturday” starting in late 1929  and running into  1930.  Unlike later proto-comics of the 1930s, this was NOT comprised of newspaper strip material cut up and repasted for the periodical format but actually material not previously seen elsewhere.  photo of Victor E, Pazmino The sharp-eyed panelologist who examines that The Funnies #1 cover will detect the familiar signature “VEP”, for Victor E. Pazmino, the Ecuadorian- born cartoonist who had runs on a couple of newspaper strips in the 1920s, and who would go on to draw a number of the covers for the early Famous Funnies comic book when Dell initiated that as the first regularly published  “standatd format” comic book, starting in 1934. For the first few years, Famous Funnies was strictly reprint, save for the covers. Eventually, Pazmino went on to draw a number of interior strips in George A. Delacorte’s comics once they began utilizing original material. He also did some work for Harvey, and through the Sangor shop in the later 1940s. My contention is this- I postulate that, being the FIRST artist to contribute ORIGINAL material ( including the cover) to the TNT Todd splash pageFIRST comic book ever printed, then continuing his involvement doing same in the first REGULARLY PUBLISHED comic book series COULD make Victor E. Pazmino the FIRST COMIC BOOK ARTIST in American comics. Though the bulk of his work was of the humorous, “bigfoot” variety; he did do the artwork on at least one superhero feature, TNT TODD at Centaur. Check out AC’s Men of Mystery #43 for a reprinting of that tale. So, that’s my theory-that Victor E. Pazmino was the FIRST true “comic book artist.” If anyone would like to dispute or debate this claim, I’d love to hear from them.